PHILADELPHIA, PA -- A delegation from Angola including members who are leading a grassroots effort to end more than 40 years of bitter conflict in their country will bring their plan for peace and reconciliation to the U.S. in meetings with religious, civic and elected officials over the next several weeks. They also hope to influence an upcoming United Nations debate on a new peace process for Angola slated for January 18th.
The delegation includes Reverend Jose Evaristo Abias, the President of the Alliance of Evangelicals in Angola, Mrs. Marta Joaquina Canhoto Gourgel the President of the women's organization Women for Peace and Development in Angola, and Dr. Carlinhos Zassala the General Secretary for University Teacher's Trade Union.
The group, under the sponsorship of the American Friends Service Committee, is planning to meet with officials at the US State Department and the Congressional Black Caucus. Their tour will take them to churches, synagogues and community meetings in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York.
At the heart of the initiative is the Manifesto for Peace in Angola, a document drafted by Daniel Ntoni-Nzinga, AFSC's Southern Africa Quaker International Affairs Representative and member of the Angolan Reflection Group for Peace (GARP), a group of Angolan clergy. The document sets forth principles for lasting peace and claims a central role for members of Angolan civil society in mediating an end to the civil war. The Angolan civil war has been called the world's deadliest war with more than 200 deaths per day.
The document is remarkable in its call to the Angolan people to "take full responsibility for the solution of our own problems." The Manifesto also states that there can be no definitive military solution to the civil war.
"We have reached the extreme stage of suffering, social humiliation and the total perversion of the use of power. Hence, we have come to the conclusion . . . that we, the Angolan people, should develop a common ground for the causes as well as for the consequences of the military and political conflict we are facing," the document states.
Over the last several months, the group has been engaged in a process of consultation within Angolan civil society to try to build support for the terms of the manifesto. To date the group has garnered over 1,000 signatures. The clergy are planning a National Forum for Peace that will bring together leaders of all of the groups and organizations working for peace, human rights and development in Angola.
In addition, top leaders of the three branches of the Christian family in Angola (Catholic, Protestants and Evangelicals) have formed the Inter-Ecclesial Group for Peace in Angola. The clergy are organizing in the name of the Churches and, expect to play the role of internal facilitator (mediator) in the next peace process. They aim to help the people of Angola embark upon a new and credible peace process.
According to Ntoni-Nzinga, the Angolan clergy on this trip will continue to seek the support of American civil society and government for the efforts of Angolan civil society.
"Until now, mediation for peace in Angola has been in the hands of the United Nations," Ntoni-Nzinga said. "If the UN is having a debate on resolving the conflict in Angola, Angolan civil society needs to be a part of it or only two voices will be heard: that of government and that of UNITA. Unless and until Angola's civil society becomes a part of the debate for peace, there is no hope for a lasting peace plan for Angola."
"Year 2000" he says, "is not a year of celebration, it is a year of transformation in which we prepare ourselves to move into the Twenty-first Century. Jubilee year is a year to affirm the dignity of Angolan people."
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the Quaker belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.
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